Legislative Forest Health Forum Causes Upset

Phoenix, AZ – The hearing occurred against the backdrop of some of the worst fires in state history. Republican Congressman Paul Gosar, invited to testify by Rep. Brenda Barton, the head of the Republican controlled panel, said the worst damage was in areas where thinning did not occur. He said logging used to keep the situation more in control.

(But bureaucratic red tape preventing the private sector from participating in the stewardship of our public lands, combined with the excessive litigation initiated by some extreme environmental groups has resulted in the loss of Arizona's timber industry and the jobs provided by responsible management of our natural resources.)

That theme was echoed by Andy Groseta, the incoming president of the Arizona Cattlemen's Association. He said environmental groups have used federal laws and regulations to, in his words, create a paralysis within federal agencies.

(They have litigated, they've appealed, they've objected to the Forest Service actions so much that bureaucrats in the agency can no longer can no longer manage their lands unless it's for the fish, the frog or the owl.)

The rhetoric annoyed state Rep. Bruce Wheeler, one of two Democrats on the five-member panel. He said he is open to looking at all possible options to improving Arizona's forest health.

(With all due respect to the congressman, however, to come here and hear attacks against certain interests without having any backup, to me is counterproductive to what we're trying to do. So when you say 'extremist environmental groups,' excuse me, but I have no idea of what you're talking about or who you're talking about.)

And Rep. Albert Hale, the other Democrat, said part of what's lost in all the criticism of environmental groups and the laws they use to sue is that Congress enacted those laws because corporations let their financial needs trump what was being done to public lands.

(What we're hearing here today in my mind is the pendulum has swung too far in that direction. There's over regulation and there's a need to pull that back also. And we know on every issue, that's what happens yearly, through the years. And that's what I see to be the case here.)

He said what's needed is bringing everyone to the table to talk about solutions. But Groseta said all that environmentalists have agreed to is the harvesting of small diameter trees. He said trees of all sizes need to be cut selectively and cattle need to be allowed to graze.

(They have had the past 10 years to collaborate. And now is the time for action. It's time for the cows and the chainsaws.)

Barton promised to invite environmental interests to testify at her next meeting. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.